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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
It was a tough ending to a remarkable run for Needham High baseball on Friday night, as the No. 8 Rockets hosted No. 9 Xaverian in the opening round of the Division I South sectionals.
After falling behind by a pair of runs twice in the early innings, the Needham boys battled back on three separate occasions to tie the game. Unfortunately for the Rockets, it still was not enough, as Xaverian pulled out a 5-4 victory despite Needham putting runners at first and second with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh.
Charlie Bean drove in Matt Joyce with a two-out RBI single in the top of the first to give Xaverian an early 1-0 lead. Needham went down 1-2-3 in the home half before John Joyce drove in Matt Brinker, who reached on a hit-by-pitch, with a single to left-center to double Xaverian’s lead to 2-0 after an inning and a half.
Needham responded in the home half of the second as a deep sacrifice fly to right by Sam Chutkow plated Will Foley, who led off the inning with a walk, cutting the deficit in half to 2-1 after two full.
Ryan Pomposelli got the run back for Xaverian in the top of the third, singling in John Whorf, who began the inning with a walk, to make it a 3-1 lead for the Hawks. In the bottom of the third, Steve Donovan singled to left with one out, followed by a single from Kevin MacKenzie and an infield single by Danny DeMayo to load the bases for Tom Chmielewski. Chmielewski was able to reach on an error via a ground ball to short, plating Donovan and making it a one-run game. Will Foley followed it up with a sacrifice fly to left to score MacKenzie and tie the game at three at the end of three.
Chris Ducko led off the top of the fourth with a triple to right. Reece Rappoli drove in Ducko with a line-drive to right helped by an error, giving the Hawks back the lead at 4-3 heading to the bottom of the fourth. Xaverian starter Justin Postnik worked a 1-2-3 bottom half, followed by Chmielewski getting out of the top of the fifth with a 6-4-3 double play.
Danny DeMayo reached on an infield single with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Chmielewski followed it up with a double into the right-centerfield gap to plate DeMayo and tie the game at four. Postnik struck out Donovan to end the inning and limit the damage to a single run.
Matt Joyce doubled to left-center to lead off the top of the sixth for Xaverian. Joyce moved up to third on a passed ball before an infield single by Ducko allowed him to cross home and reclaim the lead for Xaverian at 5-4.
Sam Chutkow singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth but was picked off on a dart from the catcher, Brinker, to make it one out in the inning. Xaverian reliever John Bruzzese struck out the next two batters he faced to get Xaverian to the seventh still up a run.
Chmielewski retired the Hawks in order via a groundout to short, a line out to right, and a strikeout of Charlie Bean to move the game to the bottom of the seventh and Needham in need of a run to force extras and two to win.
Garrett Hirsch and Will Foley drew back-to-back walks to start the inning, but a 6-3 double play by MacKenzie made it two outs in the inning with Hirsch moving up to third as the tying run. Danny DeMayo flew out to Ducko in right and Xaverian advanced with the 5-4 victory, ending Needham’s hopes of repeating as Division I state champions.
For funny and insightful sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter @fLAno0.